Cruise West’s newly announced voyage to one of the coldest destinations on earth just got hotter.

The exclusive 18-night Antarctica expedition – debuting in February 2010 – now features a visit to Palmer Station, one of the three United States research stations located in Antarctica. And famed oceanographer Dr. Don Walsh – named one of the world's great explorers by Life magazine – will lead onboard lectures and discussions concerning the state of Antarctica, and the importance of its many ongoing research projects.

Located on the Antarctic Peninsula, Palmer Station allows limited visits during its busy research season. Cruise West passengers will enjoy a rare opportunity to speak with the scientists about research into the ecology of Antarctica. Ongoing investigations include ecology and population biology of marine biota and seabirds and ecosystem responses to climate change.

Staffed year-round since 1967, Palmer Station has been designated as the first polar biome Long-Term Ecological Research site in the Southern Hemisphere. Biomes are large geographical area of distinctive plant and animal groups, which are adapted to that particular environment. The climate and geography of a region determines what type of biome can exist in that region.

Dr. Walsh brings 30 years of ocean exploration to the cruise

Oceanographer, explorer and marine policy specialist, Walsh has been associated with ocean science, engineering, and marine policy for more than 30 years.

As an adventurer-explorer, he has worked in the deep oceans and Polar Regions. He was the commander of the Navy's Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960 when he and co-pilot Jacques Piccard made a record-breaking seven-mile descent into the Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the world's oceans.

Walsh has worked at both the North and South Poles, logging 10 expeditions to the Arctic and 16 to the Antarctic. His contributions to polar exploration were recognized in 1973 when a mountain ridge in the Antarctic was named for him.

“Securing permission to visit Palmer Station is a huge coup for our guests who will see first hand the important research being conducted in Antarctica on world ecology,” said Dietmar R. Wertanzl, Cruise West president and CEO. “And the added bonus of Dr. Walsh as lecturer and discussion leader will put context and clarity to this remote and complex region for our guests who revel in such hands-on adventures.”

On board the 114-guest, all-suite Corinthian II, guests will explore such sites as the Falkland, South Georgia and Orkney Islands as well as the Antarctic Peninsula and the myriad of islands that dot its shore. February is optimum viewing season for marine mammals and natural history observation – the penguin chicks have fledged and there is an increase in food supply. Guests will encounter extraordinary opportunities to view Rockhopper penguins in the remote British outpost of the Falkland Islands and thousands of King penguins and nesting grounds of wandering albatross in South Georgia.

In addition to Dr. Walsh, guests will gain fascinating insight on the flora, fauna, history and geology via presentations by an expert staff of eight naturalists.

Cruise West’s 18-night maiden voyage to Antarctica will depart February 7, 2010. Prices start at $13,899 (US dollars); save $1,000/person, based on double occupancy, by booking and paying in full by July 31, 2009.